To What Extent Is Fast Food Responsible for Obesity?

Introduction

Food plays a distinctive role in terms of promoting the development of differentiated functions of the various organs of the human body. However, factors such as the nature of the diet and the associated consumption trends significantly influence the ability of the body to control different conditions and diseases. Differentiated food products have flooded the food market in the last three to five decades. This situation has led to the emergence of unhealthy food consumption trends that have led to serious health implications.

Obesity has become a puzzle for many people across nations and continents. The ever-revolutionizing eating habits have led to unending debates concerning the obesity epidemic owing to the heavy consumption of junk foods that are available in various fast-food outlets. One school of thought is of the view that the increasing number of fast-food joints is to blame for the rising cases of obesity. On the other hand, some people feel that obesity is caused by several factors and not just fast foods. Different interest groups have forwarded their arguments about the causes of obesity and how it should be controlled. Nevertheless, a majority of the current research indicates that fast foods are to blame for the rising cases of obesity in the modern society.

Fast Foods and Obesity

The civil society has identified the gradual development of fast-food eateries in the last few decades as the major cause of obesity (Currie, DellaVigna, Moretti & Pathania 2009). The views of the civil societies reflect those of most citizens. Most people positively associate the heavy presence of fast-food establishments with obesity. This association of fast food and obesity is so deep-rooted that it is somehow embarrassing for an obese person to stand in line at a fast-food establishment.

Nevertheless, the insinuations of civil societies when it comes to fast food and obesity have a high degree of merit. For instance, the ease of availability of fast food establishments is responsible for increasing calorie-intake among individuals. Most fast foods are cooked in a manner that appeals to taste buds, therefore, making them irresistible to most citizens. In addition, unlike restaurants, fast food establishments are located in places where they are accessible to all individuals such as street corners and drive-bys. Individuals who take their meals from fast-food outlets one to three times a week escalate their fat content from between 23-percent to 55-percent depending on their prevailing health conditions. Fast foods contain relatively larger proportions of calories that increase the BMI of an individual.

On the contrary, home-cooked meals are easy to ration and they are known for their health-conscious nature and balanced dietary considerations. Supporters of fast foods note that the choice to consume certain types of food lies with an individual and it cannot be left to chance. Consequently, fast foods cannot be blamed for the rising cases of obesity. However, it is the habits and choices of food consumers that determine the rates of obesity. This argument can be refuted by the fact that healthy foods are considerably highly-priced and scarce as compared to fast foods. Also, the fast-food business is favored for its levels of profitability and not due to its health implications.

Fast-Food Caloric Content and Weight Status of an Individual

The amount of calories consumed by individuals varies greatly depending on their weight statuses, both in children and adults. According to Kruger et al. (2014), the overall effect of daily calorie intake from fast-food restaurants increases the chances of being obese as the weight of an individual increases. According to the research findings of this study, the overall effect of taking high caloric content increased the BMI of overweight individuals. They became obese within the first one year of their frequent visits to fast-food restaurants. These findings contrast the views expressed by Marlow and Shiers (2012) that fast foods are a healthy source of nourishment.

According to these authors, fast foods only pose a considerable health risk to individuals who ‘misuse’ them. For instance, when fast foods are consumed in the right quantities, they are a good source of nutrients especially carbohydrates. Furthermore, obesity is only caused by fast foods when individuals consume them in large quantities. Also, it is argued that individuals who fail to engage in physical exercises are at a heightened risk of obesity whether fast foods are a factor or not. Consequently, fast foods are not solely to blame for obesity according to this school of thought. Nevertheless, this latter argument takes into consideration ‘ effort’, which is not a factor in the research by Marlow and Shiers (2012). For instance, the availability of prohibited drugs naturally increases cases of drug abuse. Similarly, the availability of fast foods is bound to increase cases of obesity.

Globalisation of the Food Market

Opponents of the fast-food industry acknowledge that their widespread presence is a contributing factor to the increasing instances of obesity. The availability of fast foods is blamed for the lack of control that is associated with the consumers of fast foods (Van Boxtel, Klijin & Thio 2008). Food consumers are constantly supplied with fatty and salty foods at their places of residence, work, and relaxation. Consequently, it is unlikely that individuals will escape the temptations that come with fast food products because these commodities are readily available (Viola et al. 2013). Observers have noted that the heavy presence of fast foods is closely associated with the increasing instances of obesity within the population.

On the other hand, opponents of this argument point out to the fact that the heavy presence of fast foods is a necessity. Consequently, the heavy presence of fast food establishments serves other purposes other than obesity. It is therefore misinformed to argue that the big number of fast-food establishments across the world is aimed at increasing consumption. On the contrary, the various number of fast-food establishments is meant to supply nourishment to individuals as they go about the activities of the modern-day life. Nevertheless, opponents of the fast-food industry reckon that the various fast food outlets across the country could serve healthy purposes such as selling fruits and valuable nutritional packs.

Urbanisation and Diet

As technology advances, many nations move towards knowledge-based economies. In particular, the advancement of food technology has led to innovative means of production that have, in turn, resulted in the diversification of fast foods. Food technology bears the responsibility of processed foods (Jepsen, Aadland, Andersen & Natvig 2013). Processed foods have eased the availability of a plethora of high-calorie food products. The use of food technology favors the institution of the fast foods that contain high-calorie contents. Technology has allowed companies to invest in a variety of production techniques that have led to the packaging of ready-to-eat food products.

Unfortunately, the food industry has met numerous challenges such as the setting and management of production environments, inhibition of food degeneration, and balancing of dietary requirements for any processed foods. Nevertheless, technology can also be harnessed to accommodate healthier types of food. Therefore, the preference for fast foods cannot be explained using technology alone. However, regardless of the attempts to meet all the production requirements, many companies have failed to deliver low-calorie fast foods in the market. As a result, the fast-food market has become a pool of foods that have high levels of calories. From infrequent to habitual patterns of consuming these foods, the rate of obesity has increased (Schrempf 2014)

Food Technology

The claim about the correlation between fast foods and obesity cannot justify the differentiation of fast foods and fast-food markets, which is the dominating cause of the increasing rate of obesity cases (Currie et al. 2009). Researchers hypothesize that the availability of fast-food eateries and the chances of individuals purchasing unhealthy packages of junk food make insignificant differences in their health if they consume similar meals in their homes. In this sense, obesity is attributed more to lifestyle dietary habits as opposed to the consumption of junk foods in fast-food restaurants. Individuals around the globe have abandoned traditional health lifestyles to modernized and diverse ways of living (Chandon & Wansink 2007).

The abundance of fast foods and fast-food outlets is a prerequisite for unhealthy diets. Nevertheless, the time factor, laziness, leisure, and peer influence among other factors lead individuals of different age groups to adopt unhealthy consumptions trends that are costly in the long-term. Consequently, the case for fast foods being the only available food option is weak, to say the least. The availability of fast foods in shops, cafeterias, canteens, and even supermarkets among other outlets tempts individuals to purchase readymade foods even with the possession of knowledge about the presence of intolerable caloric aggregates in such foods (Marlow & Shiers 2012). The choice to consume fast foods is made up by the consumers themselves and these foods are just one among several choices.

Revolutionised Lifestyle and Obesity

The intolerable part of lifestyle habits is evident where individuals take huge chunks of calories after which they engage in virtual rather than physical activities. A recent research conducted by Poti, Duffey, and Popkin (2014) revealed that most individuals, especially the young generation, rarely engage in physical exercises. Fast foods have only become a part of this lifestyle by mere chance. With the age of technology, people have found it easy to do most of their businesses online. For instance, a person may find it easy to shop goods online and have them delivered at the doorstep. Similarly, a child or an adult may find it more entertaining to play a soccer video game on a television screen than doing it in reality.

Regardless of how many times an individual visits a local fast-food restaurant, the consumption of heavy caloric meals and little or meaningless physical exercise increases the chances of obesity. In this context, it does not matter whether an individual takes food that has been prepared at home or a local fast-food eatery. Therefore, obesity is a lifestyle disease that links to the consumption of unhealthy diets and ignorance of physical activities such as walking, dancing, biking, and swimming among other outdoor leisure activities (Jaworowska, Blackham, Davies & Stevenson 2013). These activities enhance crucial bodily functions such as metabolic processes that facilitate the breakdown of calories that accumulate in the body. Consequently, individuals should desist from consuming needless calories by avoiding fast foods. This practice will greatly reduce the rate of calorie intake and eventually minimize the risk of becoming obese.

Conclusion

Researchers have conducted innumerable studies to determine the exact cause of obesity. Regardless of the existence of fast foods, the precise combinations of causative factors that lead to obese individuals have left many researchers in a dilemma. The people who blame fast foods for promoting obesity cite several factors including their calorie content, availability, and purpose as their main objections to this commodity. On the other hand, the arguments of these proponents are refuted by the fact that it is the responsibility of each individual to choose a healthy diet. While both sides present viable arguments, most research favors the notion that fast foods cause obesity.

References

Chandon, P & Wansink, B 2007, ‘The Biasing Health Halos of Fast-Food Restaurant Health Claims: Lower Calorie Estimates and Higher Side-Dish Consumption Intentions’, Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 34 no. 3, pp. 301-14.

Currie, J, DellaVigna, S, Moretti, E & Pathania, V 2009, The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity, Web.

Jaworowska, A, Blackham, T, Davies, G & Stevenson, L 2013, ‘Nutritional challenges and health implications of takeaway and fast food’, Nutrition Reviews, vol. 71 no. 5, pp. 310-318.

Jepsen, R, Aadland, E, Andersen, R & Natvig, K 2013, ‘Associations between physical activity and quality of life outcomes in adults with severe obesity: a cross-sectional study prior to the beginning of a lifestyle intervention’, Health & Quality of Life Outcomes, vol. 11 no. 1, pp. 1-13.

Kruger, J, Greenberg, E, Murphy, B, DiFazio, A & Youra, R 2014, ‘Local Concentration of Fast-Food Outlets Is Associated With Poor Nutrition and Obesity’, American Journal of Health Promotion, vol. 28 no. 5, pp. 340-43.

Marlow, L & Shiers, F 2012, ‘The relationship between fast food and obesity’, Applied Economics Letters, vol. 19 no. 16, pp.1633-37.

Poti, M, Duffey, J & Popkin, M 2014, ‘The association of fast food consumption with poor dietary outcomes and obesity among children: is it the fast food or the remainder of the diet?’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 99 no. 1, pp. 162-71.

Schrempf, J 2014, ‘A Social Connection Approach to Corporate Responsibility: The Case of the Fast-Food Industry and Obesity’, Business & Society, vol. 53 no. 2, pp. 300-32.

Van Boxtel, D, Klijin, M & Thio, E 2008, The role of fast-food companies in the Obesity epidemic, Web.

Viola, D, Arno, S, Maroko, R, Schechter, B, Sohler, N, Rundle, A, Neckerman, M & Maantay, J 2013, ‘Overweight and obesity: can we reconcile evidence about supermarkets and fast food retailers for public health policy?’, Journal of Public Health Policy vol. 34 no. 3, pp. 424.